The novel cure: Stuck in a house chain

Literary prescriptions for modern ailments

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The Independent Culture

Ailment: House chain, stuck in a

Cure: Love Nest by Julia Llewellyn (Penguin)

Impotence. Fury. Despair. Desire to kick the walls in – of all the houses involved. There are few worse places to be than caught in a house chain. You can't think of anything else. And what are you supposed to do?

Sitting at home surrounded by boxes just reminds you of the fact that you can't get on with your life. Running away to the Maldives is impossible; you've spent all your money on surveyors. You bore your friends to tears. Your partner isn't speaking to you at all.

Clearly, the only option is to put your feet up on one of those boxes and pick up Julia Llewellyn's delightfully tormented Love Nest, a novel about (you've guessed it) a house chain, but one – hurrah! – that's even more of a soap opera than yours.

Grace needs to sell her crumbling childhood home, Chadlicote Manor, to settle the family debts. Musician Nick wants a home, and a new girlfriend, more worthy of his rockstar status. Loft-owning Gemma desires a space big enough to bring up the children she yearns for. And when Karen's recuperating husband persuades her they should find a refuge in the country – a crumbling manor, in fact – the circle is complete.

As the four house-owners struggle to swap walls and lifestyles, you'll find yourself chortling at high-class estate agent Lucinda's desperate strategies for keeping the links in this chain oiled. Revel in Nick's hilarious awfulness as he tries to trade Kylie for a more glamorous version.

Just for a moment, you might find you can pretend that your own saga is one that you are witnessing at a safe remove, too. Shed a tear of sympathy as the characters' lives unfurl before you, and allow the unexpected resolution to give you hope that all will end well for you too.

'The Novel Cure, An A-Z of Literary Remedies' (Canongate, £17.99);